Australasian Biotechnology, Vol. 11 No. 6, 2001, pp. 5
FROM THE EDITOR - Honesty and openness - the key to a biotech future
Dr Martin Playne, Editor
Code Number: au01070
It is traditional at this time of year to ponder a little on the future, as well as to review the happenings of the last twelve months - the achievements, success stories, the disappointments, and matters left unfinished. To me, it is imperative that emerging biotech companies not only learn how to commercialise and export their products highly effectively, but maintain top standards of honesty and openness at all times.
The biotech industry at large will continue to face opposition to cloning, therapeutic or reproductive; to privacy of the DNA fingerprint; and to GM foods from a cross section of the community. Most of this opposition is quite unfounded. Often, it is misdirected, and results from misinformation, innuendo, and a lack of understanding of the science. Frequently, biotech is being blamed for issues of the globe, such as the global economy, the legal and patent system, world population, and religious views, and not with issues concerning the science and technology of biotechnology. The pace of technical development has become too fast for many. It is important for the biotech community to understand these concerns and what lies behind them. We should not just shut our doors and label opponents as stirrers and malcontents. We have to make a big effort to provide unbiased information at a level which can be understood by the lay person with no scientific training (even at school level). We have to take every opportunity to do this, even though we are busy with company work. We must not duck and weave to difficult questions; we must not hide behind a facade of its all too difficult for you to understand, but trust us. There is nothing wrong with being honest and open, and telling people that we do not always know the answer.
The Australian biotech industry has a pretty good record to date, as have the regulatory bodies in Australia. The Gene Technology Act is just coming into force, and we will also have a Privacy Act in place by years end. We have a new Director of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (Dr Sue Meek), and we know that she is a very sound, fair, and balanced person who should fulfil that potentially difficult role well. The Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC) now largely superseded by the new OTGR, has, for many years, under the unique leadership of Professor Nancy Millis, given Australia very sound rules on genetic modification, which were copied by many overseas countries. The very sound base set by GMAC, I am sure, has resulted in Australians being relatively open to the new biotechnologies.
This journal, and indeed the association, has provided for 16 years balanced, unbiased information on biotechnology. Our series of educational leaflets has been exceptionally well received, not only in Australian schools, but overseas in many training institutions. There is still a strong need for such information, set in the Australian context. I hope our journal can continue to provide a wide variety of opinion, and balanced articles on biotechnology in the years ahead. It is important that it does this well, as well as being the official journal of our association, AusBiotech. There is potentially a conflict of interest here - providing promotion of a biotech industry and its member companies on the one hand, and unbiased balanced information on biotechnology on the other. We will strive to achieve this. It would be pleasing to me for this journal to be available on newsagents stands. It certainly would widen the exposure of the association, but could strengthen its role as an educational tool.
I wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year, and I thank all those involved in the production of the journal for their wonderful efforts during a year of much change for the association. We thank you, the readers, for your contributions and commentaries during the year. We look forward to working with you during 2002.
By Martin Playne, Editor
Copyright 2001 - AusBiotech